What Comes Next?

A contributed perspectives piece by Tom Arthur

We’re having the Black Walnut tree in the back yard taken down. It’s the largest tree in the neighborhood.

Black Walnut trees can grow between 70 and 100 feet tall and live 200 years but this one is larger and could be older. You can see it in early photographs of Harrisonburg’s “Old Town.”

It’s coming down because a garden could be important during the current pandemic. Black walnut tree roots contain a substance toxic to tomatoes, potatoes, peas, peppers, cabbage, apples, blueberry, blackberry, cherry, everything you can grow in a garden and eat.

It’s sad to think of the tree not being there. It’s stood above the house for the past forty-plus years of raising children, teaching, doing research and writing.

Some months ago, not long before being confined to quarters, I visited a friend from high school, now a highly respected political scientist who’s completing a book on world politics. It ends with a chapter titled, “What Comes Next?”

The tree is coming down, my friend has finished his book and I’m scheduled to direct in a theater that’s been closed. What comes next?

These are hard days with no answers.

Tom Arthur is a retired JMU teacher of acting. He has eight grandchildren.

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